Fuck my head hurt.
That was the first thing I thought as I struggled to get my eyes open. Blinking in the unfamiliar surroundings, I went to sit up, but was immediately hit with a shot of pain. It was everywhere from my pinky toe to the top of my head. Giving in, I fell back onto the bed, the plush pillows enveloping me.
“Baby? Can you hear me?” I tried to answer the voice, the voice that begged me to stay awake, but I couldn’t. The voice that even in my nearly unconscious state sent shivers across my skin.
Sleep overtook me again.
The next time I was able to open my eyes, I had no idea how much time had passed. But exhaustion was still the strongest feeling I had. That and the pain. This time when I opened my eyes I found his sleeping form immediately. He was in a chair next to the bed, his head turned to the side as it rested on his crossed forearms. His lips pursed as he breathed in and out. I reached my hand up to touch him and felt the sting of something pulling at my skin. Looking down, I saw an IV in my arm. “Nathan,” I said, my voice hoarse and scratchy. I reached my hand out again, letting it rest on his blonde hair.
Lifting his head his eyes found mine, green and full of worry. My hand slipped from his head as it was lifting higher and he was moving closer to me. “Baby,” he breathed out.
I didn’t get the chance to answer as I was forced to succumb to the darkness again.
When I came to again I was determined not to fall back into the abyss. Nathan was sitting up in the chair this time, his phone in his hand as he typed on the keyboard.
God he was handsome.
“Nathan,” I croaked out. He was out of his chair in an instant, moving to the bed.
“Let me help,” he said as I tried to sit up. Once he'd situated a myriad of pillows behind my back he ran his hands and eyes over my body.
He wouldn’t like what he found. I was sure I looked as bad as I felt. When he was done with his assessment I looked up at him. He didn’t hold back as he descended on me, capturing my mouth with his in an instant. I kissed him back, ignoring the voice in the back of my head telling me all the reasons this was a bad idea, including that I had no idea how long it'd been since I'd last brushed my teeth.
I had to suppress a whimper when he pulled away. “How long have I been out?”
“Four days.” He typed on his phone again before shoving it back in his pocket. “Doc will be here in just a minute to look you over.”
“How bad am I?”
“We don’t know what they did to you while you were being held, or how you escaped,” he quirked an eyebrow at me. “But you had some bruised ribs, a severe concussion, broken ankle, bruised windpipe.” He growled the last words as he tugged on the neck of the t-shirt I was wearing, exposing my neck. By the look on his face, I could tell it was still bruised.
Abruptly the door flew open and my friends came barreling through the door. Jamie was the first to reach me and I hissed in pain as she threw her arms around me. “Careful!” Nathan chastised her. She gave him a stern glare in return.
Chrissy and Annie took their turns hugging me and I was grateful that they were gentler.
Before they could bombard me with their questions, a tall, brown haired guy walked in with a cut on. Accompanying his cut was a stethoscope around his neck, and I had to bite back a laugh at the contrasting imagery.
“Too many visitors,” he said.
“When I bring her to our room you can come see her,” Nathan told my friends.
“Rachel, I’m Doc,” the man introduced himself as my friends filed out. “If it’s okay with you I’m going to check your injuries.”
I nodded my consent. Nathan moved, giving him space to work. The scowl on his face seemed permanent as Doc examined my bruised ribs. He listened to my heart and lungs before wrapping his hands delicately around my throat. I flinched away at the touch, the memories of Joe’s hands there flooding my mind. Nathan was immediately next to me, ready to remove Doc if necessary. “I’m sorry. I just need to examine your throat. It’ll be quick. Can you make a few sounds? Ooo’s and aah’s if you will.”
My voice came out scratchy and it hurt, but I managed.
“You’ll still need to rest your voice for a few days. And in general take it easy. You can walk with the cast on your leg, but not too far. If you’re in any pain tell Nathan and he’ll inform me.” While he spoke he removed the IV from my arm.
“Can I take her now?” Nathan asked.
“No excessive activity,” Doc smirked at him. My face had to be a hundred shades of red as Nathan blessed me with his perfect smile. I went to sit up further but my movements were stopped when Nathan slid his arms under me and carried me out of the room. We walked down a poorly lit hallway and at the other end I saw a bar with what I can only assume is the rest of his club. Before we could enter the bar area he turned and headed up the stairs. He walked quickly to the last room on the right.
“Let me help,” I said as he struggled to maneuver his hold on me to open the door. Once I’d got it opened he walked us inside before kicking it shut behind him and setting me on the bed.
“Do you need anything?”
“Water.” He walked to a mini fridge in the corner and pulled out a bottle before opening it and handing it to me.
A series of knocks on the door interrupted whatever he was going to say to me. He was pushed out of the way as soon as he opened it and my girls come storming in.
“You hungry?” He asked, to which I nod. “I’ll give you some time,” he smiled softly before closing the door behind him as he left.
“How are you feeling?” Chrissy asked, pushing the hair out of my face that had fallen in front of it.
“Like I got hit by a bus,” I tried joking. None of them are impressed. “I’ll be fine. I’ve had worse,” I said catching Jamie’s eye and shuddering at the memories.
“You’ve both been keeping secrets,” Annie said softly. I knew she was more upset with Jamie than with me, and I was in no mood to argue so I let the comment go. Jamie could explain to her as much or as little as she wanted.
“Can we leave it at I’m alive. Everything else just doesn’t matter.”
“It does if you’re staying with him,” Jamie shot at me. I could read her like a book. We vowed when we ran away together to never get sucked back into the life and there I was, running back to it openly.
“So are you?” Chrissy asked. Biting my lip I shrugged my shoulders. If I was smart the answer would be no but I knew my heart was making this decision and not my head.
“At least if I stay I know what I’m signing up for. I thought Joe was as straight edge as they come. Turns out he was working for the cartel our entire relationship. Just because I didn’t know doesn’t mean I was in any less danger.”
Jamie sighed. She knew I had her. “He didn’t leave your side at all while you were out,” she said, voice filled with approval. “He even showered in the bathroom next to your makeshift hospital room.” I went to speak but she cut me off again. “He called church twice while you were out, but he still didn’t leave you. He made one of his guys put him on speaker phone while they all sat in their meeting room and he stayed here.”
She was conveying what I already knew. Even if he hadn’t claimed me yet, the club knew I was his old lady.
It seemed like us ending up together was inevitable.
“Not like Chrissy can judge you anyway,” Annie said. Furrowing my brows in confusion, I waited for an explanation. “She’s having adult nap time with the club lawyer.”
Now that my love life wasn’t the topic of conversation I immediately perked up.
“I’ve only been out for four days! You move quick,” I winked at her, causing her to blush. Chrissy never blushed. “What’s his name?”
“JJ,” Chrissy said and I recognized the dreamy look in her eyes as the same one I had whenever I talked about Nathan. “He’s so smart.”
Chrissy’s main problem with finding a guy was that they all assumed they were smarter than she was, when they usually weren't. Even the ones in her field underestimated her. “He might actually be smarter than me,” she laughed. “I cleaned out one of his friends in court apparently.”
“The beginnings of every great love story.” Silence fell over the room. “Have you guys been staying here?”
“Nathan, whose road name is Blade by the way,” Jamie said shooting me a look. “He called a lockdown after you were taken. We stayed when he brought you back. We didn’t know when you’d wake up.”
“If you’d wake up,” Annie chimed in, her voice brittle with unshed tears. Jamie wrapped her arms around her and kissed her head softly. She’d done it to Chrissy and me a million times too, but with Annie it was different. I suddenly felt like I was intruding on a very personal moment.
Before the atmosphere could get even more awkward Nathan walked back in, carrying a tray of food. “Doc said to start easy,” he said as the girls dispersed so he could set the tray next to me.
I saw tomato soup, saltines, Diet Coke, heavily buttered toast. All my favorites when I was sick. He sent Annie a wink and I knew she’d spent the last three days selling me out. “Snuck this in too,” he whispered conspiratorially, pulling a pack of Reese’s out of his pocket. The look on his face was adorable, as if giving me a candy bar was the biggest conspiracy there was.
“We’re not going anywhere, babe,” Chrissy said. “Just text if you need us.”
“Thanks.” They each kissed my cheek before leaving us alone. Nathan was eerily quiet while I was eating. “This is good. Who made it?” I asked about the soup, mostly just to break the silence.
“I’ll have to thank her.”
When I was finished Nathan moved the tray and helped me lay in his bed.
As he was laying me down it dawned on me that I was in nothing but an MC t-shirt. Without panties.
“What happened to my clothes?”
“After Doc checked you out we had to cut you out of them. The girls bathed you, washed your hair and put one of my shirts on you.”
“Without underwear?” I quirked at him.
“Thought you’d be more comfortable without them.” I couldn’t help but laugh but stopped quickly because of the pain in my ribs. As soon as I stopped the silence was back.
“Guess we’ve got some things to discuss.”
I could only nod in agreement.
“Half my guys think you were in on it. They can’t believe that you dated Joe for four years and didn’t know he was cartel.”
“I didn’t,” I started to defend myself.
“I believe you.” His words instantly calmed me.
“But the club?”
“They have doubts.” I knew bikers. Once they distrusted you it was hard to get it back. “Start from the beginning.”
“Jamie and I grew up in Maryland. Our dads were president and VP of Devil’s Soldiers. I didn’t mind living in the clubhouse because Jamie lived there too. It wasn’t until I was about ten that I started to realize something was off. None of the other parents would let their kids play with me. When I was twelve, I got kidnapped by a rival club. I’d been with Jamie but I fought so hard it took both of them to get me. Jamie ran.”
“Did they,” he let the word hang in the air. He couldn’t even speak it.
“No. I wasn’t even a teenager yet. They weren’t that depraved. But they did beat me black and blue. Taped it and sent it to my dad. I still have no idea what deal he had to make to get me back. But it cost him his life.
“That day Jamie and I vowed to get out. We asked one of the members to train us in self defense. We got so good that one of the club’s initiation challenges was that a prospect had to take me or her down in a sparring match.”
“That’s how you escaped?”
“Yeah. So when we were seventeen and graduated we pooled all the money we’d saved working the bar and ran. As far as I know nobody ever looked for us. They have no reason too. All four of our parents were dead by that point. We weren’t tied to anyone anymore.”
I could see the wheels of his brain turning as he was absorbing the information.
“What happened after Joe took you.”
“When I woke up I was still in the van. Joe and that Beast guy were in the front. I knew Jamie would have told you about the GPS. When we got to the warehouse they tied me to a chair. Beast guy started beating me, asking me questions about you. Questions I didn’t know the answer to, not that he believed me. I guess the beatings lasted until just before you guys showed up.”
“They didn’t,” he let his question hang in the air again.
“What?” He was going to have to say the words.
“Rape. Were you raped?”
“Would that change your opinion of me?”
“No. Baby, no. Of course not.”
“You got there in time,” I said, wiping the snot that was running from my nose as tears ran down my cheeks. “Joe was pulling my pants down when we heard the the first shots.” Nathan wrapped his arms around me and rocked me until the sobs quit coming. “He untied me so he could move me, but I was able to catch him off guard and disarm him.
“He strangled me. But I was able to reach for the gun. I got a shot off but I don’t know if I killed him.”
“We didn’t find his body.”
“And then I just ran, searching for an exit. I shot at anything that came close to me. I fell down a set of stairs. I think that’s how I broke my ankle.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice husky.
“Letting him take you.”
“Nathan,” I said, grabbing his chin, “it wasn’t your fault.”
He nodded but I could tell he wasn't convinced.
“I’m going to have Echo do a thorough background check on you. When it comes back clean the guys should come around.”
“Okay.” I knew he’d find everything I told him to be true. “Did you guys come out whole?”
“Hands caught one in the shoulder, but he’s fine.”
“And were you able to take any of them alive?”
“We had one, but he died while Doc was trying to patch him up. It looks like Joe got away.”
“He killed your sister.”
“He admitted it?” His voice came out haunted as he asked the question.
“Not in those words, but something along the lines of killing the biker’s whore like he did the biker’s bitch cop of a sister. He didn’t say why.”
He let out a shaky breath. He was losing control of his emotions and he didn't like it. “I’ll help you find him anyway I can. Clearly I didn’t know him as well as I thought, but I spent four years with him.”
“What about us?” He said, gesturing between our bodies, clearly trying to change the subject. Although I wasn't sure this one would be any better on his nerves. I knew the question would come, but I was still not prepared to answer it. I could also see how vulnerable he was as he asked it. He was the president of his club. I could guarantee every woman that wasn’t already an old lady would willingly climb into his bed and heed his command. He wasn't a man who was used to talking about his feelings. But here he was. With me.
“I swore I’d never go back to the life.” So much pain passed across his face that my heart broke a little. I reached out to him, holding onto his arm while he tried to walk away. “But you’re right,” I admitted softly. “Whatever this is. I can’t deny it.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that there’s still a lot we don’t know about each other. I’ve got more skeletons in my closet than the ones you’ve already found out about. And I know you do too, but I,” I have to stop to find the words.
“You wanna be my old lady?” He smirked at me.
“I hate that term,” I groaned, to which he chuckled. Silence fell over the room again, but this time it was alive with sexual tension, not awkward unanswered questions. I looked up at Nathan who was looking back at me. The amount of adoration in his eyes made my heart flutter.
He said bikers were different and he wasn't wrong. But the other side of that truth was that biker women were different too and as much as I’d spent the last ten years denying it, trying to run from it, I couldn’t deny it anymore. I knew he was what I wanted. All I’d ever want.
“Claim me, Nathan.”
He groaned and went to kiss me but pulled away. I whined in protest and knew I wasn't going to like what he said next.
“Doc said no exertion.”
“I won’t be the one exerting myself,” I smirked as I ran my hands up down his chest. He stopped them before I could get my destination.
“I want to so fucking badly, baby. But I won’t hurt you to do it. I can wait until you’re healed.”
Since when was my big bad biker about self control?
“Fine,” I huffed. “But then you need to take me downstairs because I can’t be this close to you alone without wanting to climb on top of you.”
He smirked and it was all smug. The look would have me wetting my panties, if I was wearing any.
He kissed me briefly. It was the only way we could so that neither of us lost control. He walked to his closet and came back with a pair of my underwear and my joggers.
“Did you rob me?”
“We tossed your place looking for clues about Joe. I packed you a bag.”
“I knew once I got you back I wouldn’t be able to let you go.”
My heart clenched at his words.
“Can I shower?”
“You won’t be able to by yourself.”
“Will your self control last long enough to help?”
“Only one way to find out.”
Nathan carried me to the bathroom and set me on the counter. He turned on the shower before grabbing some tape and plastic wrap and wrapping my cast. When he stripped himself naked, suddenly I was the one who needed to show some self control. He tugged the t-shirt above my head and he kept his eyes glued to mine. I knew he was forcing himself not to look at my naked form. It would end all presumptions of self control.
He picked me up and carried me into the shower, setting me down gently. I balanced precariously on one foot while letting the warm water wash over me. My eyes closed as I let the feeling relax me. The smell of my shampoo had me opening my eyes. I kept my eyes glued on Nathan as he washed my hair. He rubbed my conditioner into it next before washing my body. His touch was so gentle I had to hold in a series of needy whimpers as he washed every inch of my skin.
His cock was raging hard but he ignored it. Once he’d finished taking care of me, which felt like he’d been worshiping my body, he turned off the water and carried me out. He wrapped me in a towel and helped me sit on the closed toilet before disappearing. When he came back he was in a pair of black sweats, a white t-shirt and his cut. I licked my lips at the sight of him.
He helped me put on my underwear and joggers before helping me put on a clean shirt. It was one of his. I looked at the Rebel Souls logo. “Which one of your guys is a Harry Potter nerd?” I asked, seeing the clear dementor in the logo with the snake.
“My sister was.” His voice was a mix of sadness and happiness. “I wish you could have met her.”
“She would have liked you.”
“Obviously,” I quipped. He laughed and it was a sound I’ll never get tired of hearing.
“Let’s go,” he said scooping me up.
“Doc said I could walk,” I protested weakly.
“But this is more fun.”
I couldn’t argue with that logic. I heard the noise of the club and was filled with anxiety. Half of them already didn’t like me. It went dead quiet as he carried me over the threshold. The club girls were openly staring at me, anger and judgement in their eyes.
Anger radiated off of Nathan. “This is Rachel. My old lady. Any problems with that?”
You could hear a pin drop. Nobody said anything. There was one club girl in particular who stared me down, openly sneering. She looked from me to Nathan and I knew immediately that he’d been with her. A wave of jealousy washed over me but I pushed it down. Showing it will only cause more problems. Instead, I staked my own claim, looking away from her and turning to lift my head to Nathan. Using all the strength I had, I moved my lips to his. The kiss wasn’t chaste, but deep and passionate. I made sure the entire room could see my tongue snaking its way into his mouth. When he groaned and tightened his grip on me, I pulled away. He smirked, knowing exactly what I was doing.
The noise of voices and bodies moving picked back up as Nathan walked me to a table, filled with three of his guys. One is busy behind a laptop, typing madly away at the keyboard.
“This is Echo,” Nathan said.
“Did you just need my name and date of birth for your background check or do you want my social security number too?”
“I like her,” he said to Nathan at my boldness. He slid a piece of paper and a pen to me. I wrote down my full name, date of birth, social security number, mother’s maiden name and my last two addresses.
I slid it back to him.
“I love when they make my job easier,” he cooed before kissing the paper I’d given him. Nathan went to introduce me to the other two guys in our booth, but I was distracted as Echo knocked over his drink. He went to pick up the papers he was working with but in his hurry, he scattered them everywhere. I was sure I wasn't supposed to be seeing them, but my curiosity got the better of me as I looked.
“Wait,” I said, pulling back the photo Echo was picking up. Turning it, I examined it. All four pairs of eyes at the table are on me. “Why do you have a picture of the girl Joe cheated on me with?”
Realization flashed across Echo’s face as he ignored me and went back to his computer.